Thursday, January 4, 2007

We, The Ordinary People

We, the ordinary people, have done it all – the crying, sobbing, and weeping. But you know, and I know, what we most hate about melt-downs.

There is the contorted countenance, the runny nose, and the unstoppable sniffles – always when one hasn’t got a Kleenex. There is the soppy pillow or shirt, the shiny nose, the red eyes, the tear-streaked face. And for woman, even worse, is the sooty rivers of mascara or muddy rivers of matte make-up descending down the nose and cheeks. There is the need to awkwardly wipe the face on one’s sleeve until one is bathed from the waist up in an awkward bath of phlegm and salt water. And when one looks to find a Kleenex to mop up the mess, there is none. A friend may eventually hand over, from the bottom of a dusty purse, a tightly wadded tissue or napkin that although dry is still highly suspect of being used. And always when we just get ourselves pulled back together, there the contagion factor. The need to weep on seeing the face of another, even a stranger, with tears in their eyes. That is the face of sad, but ordinary people.

But we, the ordinary people, are doing it all wrong. I see politicians and starlets and other of the rich and famous on TV every day, particularly on News briefs and talk shows, not ‘weeping’ (which means to shed liquid), not ‘crying’ (which means to shed tears of grief, sorrow, or pain), but ‘sobbing’ which means ‘convulsive gasping’. But for simplicity sake, we’ll just call it ‘crying’.

They don’t cry the way we, the ordinary people, do. Yes, they speak in the husky choked voice of the melt-down, but there are no tears. No sniffles. No slimy drops of nose phlegm or rivers of tears with all their converging tributaries. No soggy sleeves. No smeared make-up. No frantic searches for tissues.

So if you haven’t been paying close attention, this is how it’s done. You cover your face with your hands, or bury your knuckles into your eyeballs. You talk in a choked voice. You shake your head and droop it to your chest or look away. You wring your hands. You contort your face and say, “Excuse me” in the middle of a sentence and refuse to go on for a time. You stutter and sputter fractured speech. You run a finger tip gently along the underside perimeter of each eye frequently, but not too frequently. And without tears, the grandest part is you won’t need a tissue to blow your nose or mop up the mess.

You see it’s not so hard to do. And like coughing into the crook of your arm, this approach is so much neater, dryer, and hygienic. Give it a go.

Oh for cryin’ out loud. That performance was terrible. Guess I forgot to mention that you also need to ignore empathy, sympathy, and sincerity. Don’t let the situation touch your heart. You’ll end up drowning in another slimy phlegm and salt-water bath and crying like we, the ordinary people, do.


Pauline said...

You could write film script! What an apt commentary on public political "grief."

Matty said...

You got it down pat! Oprah calls that her 'ugly cry', the wrinkled up old make-up streaking face, snotty nose, crying to beat the band. (Of course it takes a lot to get the ugly cry going,,like compassion,love, empathy, hurt, rejection.
Public crying is the crying without the emotions, don't know if I can do that.

Roberta S said...

pauline, thank you for that comment. I was uneasy about this post. Couldn't assess how negative an effect it might have on a reader. Your comment rings with light-hearted understanding and that pleased me. I hate to be guilty of posting thoughts that might ruin another's day.

Roberta S said...

matty, the instructions are all here. Now you just get on a dry shirt and do your public crying properly. :)